Sue Elleanore Fryer Ward, first secretary of aging for the state of Maryland, died Sunday, June 22, from complications following a stroke. She was 78.
Ward owned a home on South Pagosa Boulevard in Pagosa Springs, and she and her family spent many happy times there. Ward especially loved to sit on the deck, communing with her beloved San Juan Mountains.
Ward was born in Albuquerque, N.M., on Oct. 28, 1935, to Ione Pierce and E. Reeseman Fryer, the younger of two daughters. Her first years were spent in Arizona on the Navajo Nation, where her father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs; subsequently, the family traveled extensively throughout the United States and internationally, following the path of her father’s career. Ward considered these to be formative years that profoundly shaped her sense of community and global citizenship.
Ward received her bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, Va.), with a year at the American University of Beirut (Beirut, Lebanon). She did graduate work at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) and earned her master of social work degree from the University of Utah (Salt Lake City). She was a licensed certified social worker in the state of Maryland and a board-certified diplomate through the American Board of Examiners in clinical social work.
Ward married the Rev. Dr. Archibald Ward on Nov. 3, 1959, and they settled in Clinton, Md. They had two children, Beth Ione Ward and Lucille Elleanore Ward (now Walker).
Throughout her career, Ward’s special passion was advocating for the rights of elders. She was director of the department of aging for Prince George’s County, Md. (1982-1991); director of the county’s department of family services, which included services for the aging (1992-1995); director of the Maryland Office on Aging (1995-1998); and the first secretary of the Maryland Department of Aging (1998-2003). After leaving government service, she became grassroots director for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (2003-2011). She was also a candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Maryland’s fourth congressional district in 1978.
Ward was active in the Maryland and national associations of Area Agencies on Aging, the National Association of State Units on Aging, the Maryland Gerontological Association and the Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly, a program of the American Bar Association. Among the numerous community and professional boards on which she served were Hospice of Prince George’s County, the Older Women’s League, the Center on Global Aging at Catholic University and the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center.
Ward was an ardent volunteer and activist throughout her life, from tutoring reading to children with learning difficulties to agitating in support of civil rights, from staffing polls on Election Day to marching for women’s reproductive freedom. One of the activities that made her most proud was attending demonstrations with her daughters.
Among other recognitions, Ward was recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Maryland Gerontological Association, the Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Award to Women in Government Service and the Gladys Noon Spellman Award for Excellence in Public Service. In 2010, she was named a “Social Work Pioneer” by the National Association of Social Workers.
Ward is survived by her sister, Ann Fryer Van Fossen; her daughter, Beth Ione Ward, and spouse Ay Ling Han; her daughter, Lucille Ward Walker, spouse Carl Martin Walker, and grandchildren Ian Archibald Walker and Reeseman Adams Walker; her stepdaughter, Ann Ward Little, spouse Philip G. Little, and grandchildren Lisa Little Barr, Laura Little Thorne and David P. Little; her stepson, John Ward; and a large community of family and friends (her “family by affection”). Her husband, Archibald Ward, predeceased her in 2000.
The memorial celebration of Sue Ward’s life was held Wednesday, July 2, at 4 p.m., at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Croom, Md. For those who are so moved, contributions in Ward’s memory may be made to the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center, P.O. Box 719, Brooklandville, MD 21022, or online at www.mdwomensheritagecenter.org.